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Drummond Rennie, M.D., Wins 2008 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award
The 2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award will honor Drummond Rennie, M.D., journal editor and educator, "for his career-long efforts to promote integrity in scientific research and publishing." Rennie's award also recognizes "his outspoken advocacy for the freedom of scientists to publish in the face of efforts to suppress their research."
Rennie, deputy editor (West) for The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and adjunct professor of medicine at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco "is a visionary in safeguarding the integrity of how scientific information is gathered and communicated," AAAS reported.
The AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award will be presented at the 175th AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which will take place 12-16 February 2009. The awards ceremony and reception will be held at The Fairmont Chicago on Saturday, 14 February at 5:00 p.m.
Rennie, who holds a medical degree from Cambridge University, has championed the need to prevent unreliable or biased articles from being published in the scientific literature. He has done so through his speeches and in numerous widely cited editorials addressing scientific misconduct, authorship, editorial freedom, research accountability, conflicts of interest, publication bias, industry-sponsored research standards for reporting research (particularly clinical trials), and access to the results of funded research.
He was an early advocate of compulsory registration of clinical trials, for example, so that scientists, medical professionals, and the public would be informed about which trials have been conducted, including those with negative results. It is now standard practice that all clinical trials, whatever the results, appear on a registry.
Echoing the remarks of other journal editors and publishers, Donald Kennedy, former editor-in-chief of the journal Science, described Rennie as an "icon of fairness and sound policies in the world of medical publishing."
Rennie originated, organized and chaired five International Congresses on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, where attendees were required to present and discuss new research into processes used to evaluate and disseminate biomedical information. Through this innovation, he created a new field of empirical research into how science is performed and translated into practice, focusing on such issues as how publishing is affected by peer review, industry-funded research, publication bias and other factors.
Rennie also has been "a tireless advocate for individual scientists who have been pressured by industry and other forces to suppress or limit publication of studies or specific outcomes of research that could have a negative impact on a commercial product," according to AAAS. For example, when he received unsolicited documents that included communications among high-level executives, lawyers, public relations experts and scientists from the tobacco industry -- demonstrating their knowledge that nicotine was an addictive drug and that cigarettes caused cancer 25 years before the Surgeon General had reached the same conclusion -- Rennie played a key role in shepherding manuscripts based on these papers through to publication in JAMA. The publication of these papers, along with a press conference and resulting media coverage is estimated to have reached 200 million people, resulting in significant public policy impacts.
Rennie further contributed to the development of robust policies and procedures for institutional handling of allegations of research misconduct. He participated in the adoption of such procedures for the University of California system, testified before Congress, served on investigative panels in specific cases, and was a member of the U.S. Public Health Service's Commission on Research Integrity.
The Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award is presented annually by American Association for the Advancement of Science to honor individual scientists and engineers or organizations for exemplary actions that help foster scientific freedom and responsibility. The award recognizes outstanding efforts to protect the public's health, safety or welfare; to focus public attention on potential impacts of science and technology; to establish new precedents in carrying out social responsibilities; or to defend the professional freedom of scientists and engineers. The award was established in 1980 and is approved by the AAAS Board of Directors.